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Sonoma County Gazette
100,000 Poets for Change by James Spitzer
100,000 Poets for Change by James Spitzer

Remembering James Spitzer, an "Artists' Artist"

Feb 5, 2019


By Kathleen McCallum

Throughout his life, James Spitzer was first and foremost a profound and prolific artist.

Born in 1926 in Milwaukee to a Jewish family, with Hungarian and Russian roots, he died at nearly 82 on Dec. 3, 2018 in Santa Rosa, CA.

He started drawing as a young boy, won art awards in high school, went on to earn MA and MFA degrees from the University of Wisconsin Madison where a large sculpture of him is displayed in the library.

He went on to work for several years as an Art Professor and went on to become a full time free lance artist creating thousands of drawings, prints, paintings and woodblock carvings.  His works are in many private collections and have been shown in galleries across the country.

Spitzer welcomed strangers and befriended people from around the world. He mentored countless artists and was revered as an “Artists’ Artist." Maria de Los Angeles was very influenced by him.

“Jim Spitzer was my mentor and friend. He always gave me advice about my education, studio practice, and now on how to live a balanced lifestyle. Teaching, making your own art, and owning a home as top priorities. Jim saw in me the wanting to make political statements in my work and encouraged my voice. He was the same way with everyone, always honestly supportive. The kindness that came from making his art his whole life. I will never forget him and will always cherish his paintings. Jimmy had a transformative impact on many of us. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and let his spirit live on.”

Spitzer had several lifelong friends from his college days who also moved to Santa Rosa that included Daniel Lieneu of the Annex Gallery and Art Patron Jack Leissring.

The Bridge at Betsy Crossing

Leissring shared these thoughts about his friend. “Spitzer painted every day of his life, for many hours. His life has been painting: if he slept for 8 hours a day, then the remainder was painting or preparation for painting, drawing, sketching, woodcuts. In Spitzer, the intention is clear, he must paint. His work seems at first to deal with matters that might be graspable or understood at the level of the canvas or upon the paper. Then all at once it becomes plain that there is something else in the image."

Hess defines surrealistic works: “The objects are separated from their surroundings. Though they are all depicted, each thing is comprehended in its incomprehensibility; things become hard, detached alienated, removed, as if they were imprisoned in a cage of glass. There is engendered a feeling of dread, the world resembles a dream...."

All of My Yesterdays

Does Spitzer make a gesture towards surrealism? Perhaps, yet more than that, these are works that are totally new.

Giorgio de Chirico said: "So that a work of art may become truly immortal it must stand outside the limits of human experience: the average mind and logic are only harmful." Spitzer's work may become truly immortal.

IMAGES courtesy of Dennis Calibi - Calibi Gallery, 456 10th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 - (707) 781-7070 -


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